18 April 2004

Bantuising Gaza

The old regime in South Africa devoted huge amounts of paper and ink to setting up a magic formula that would convert the white minority into a paper majority. The 1983 tricameral constitution created white, Cape Coloured and Indian legislative chambers and then gave the white president overriding powers if the three houses disagreed on anything. The black majority were assigned to highly fictive Bantustans recognised by no government in the world except South Africa, Israel and Taiwan. South Africa then claimed it no longer had any responsibility for what happened in the Bantustans. All were swept away when democracy came.

According to Haaretz:

The disengagement plan's states "there will no longer be a basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory (Article 2.A.3). Thus Israel releases itself from legal-political, moral, and economic responsibility for the Strip and transforms it into an independent entity. However the plan removes only the responsibility, together with its few citizens and its many soldiers. Other than that, control of the Gaza Strip stays in its hands. Israel will continue to control all international passages (Article 2.A.1, and Article 12). The "independent" entity will not be allowed to invite international forces to exercise control unless Israel - which will no longer be responsible for 1.3 million Gazans - agrees. Although Israel has ensured that the Palestinians have no say in the disengagement plan, it demands that Gaza be demilitarized, stating that the presence of weapons "is not in accordance with the existing agreements" (3.A.2).

Basic services (water, electricity, fuel, etc.) will remain the same. The perpetuation of these arrangements contradicts the divestment of responsibility stated by the disengagement plan. But it points out that Israel cannot permit a humanitarian disaster.

The most interesting article in the plan concerns the evacuation of the northern West Bank enclave, to allow "transportation contiguity" (2.B.4) for Palestinians. This term is also taken from the South African precedent. The white South Africans, too, thought this would allow them to continue ruling on the ground, building bridges and tunnels for the natives. Only Israel and Taiwan had ties with the homelands. Foment there deteriorated into a series of rebellions, and a decade ago the homelands became part of united South Africa, governed by a black majority.

Haaretz also has the text of the Sharon plan. Like the 1983 constitution, and indeed the Iraqi interim constitution the Sharon plan retains more than it gives away and is a device to absolve Israel of responsibility while retaining the realities of power.

Israel's official borders may correspond roughly to the 1967 Green Line. The limits of their actual authority include the West Bank and Gaza. That will not change udner the Sharon plan.

That area of authority will have an Arab majority in the near future. At some point Israel must either abandon the occupied territories or grant everyone within its area of authority citizenship. The Sharon plan is really only a device to deny citizenship and suffrage to non-Jews who live outside the Green Line but within the area of authority.

For the Bush administration to choose the moment of intifada in Iraq to formally approve Israel's retention of West Bank settlements outside the Green Line almost defies belief. Until this week no government on this planet except Israel recognised any West Bank settlements as lawful. Abandoning that principle without any kind of Palestinian consent or Israeli quid pro quo, apart from the presumed Jewish vote in a number of key states in November, is madness.

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